WINGATE, N.C. – The Anderson men's basketball team opened the New Year by struggling on the offensive end of the court and dropped an 88-64 decision to Wingate in South Atlantic Conference action, Wednesday night at Cuddy Arena.
Plagued by shooting woes and early foul trouble, Anderson slipped to 8-5 overall and 2-3 in conference action with its first loss in four weeks. Wingate improved to 8-5 overall and 4-1 in the league with its fourth straight victory and fifth win in six outings.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Junior point guard Shawn Benard led the Trojans with 14 points on the night, while dishing out five assists, grabbing five rebounds and swiping four steals. Senior guard Randall Shaw, who was saddled with early foul trouble, finished the night with 12 points and four boards, while senior forward Jeremy Bouton also netted a dozen points and pulled down a team-high six rebounds. Senior guard Gage Ellis came off the bench to reach double figures for the 12th time this season with 10 points in 16 minutes of action.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Trojans opened their first road game in more than a month by misfiring on their first four field goal attempts, which enabled Wingate to jump out to an early 6-0 lead inside the first 72 seconds of action.
But Benard got the Trojans on the scoreboard with the first of his two first-half 3-pointers at the 17:12 mark and the AU defense stiffened – holding the Bulldogs scoreless for more than four minutes. However, the Trojans were unable to capitalize, as they managed just a pair of free throws from Benard during the Wingate drought.
AU later closed the gap to 9-7 on a layup by Livingston with more than 13 minutes on the clock, but the sophomore collected his second foul shortly thereafter and with both he and Shaw on the bench with early foul trouble, the 'Dogs capitalized with five unanswered points to claim a 14-7 lead.
Hester then sparked a 14-5 run over the next five minutes that was fueled by four consecutive 3-pointers by four different Trojans and slashed Wingate's edge to just 22-21 at the 7:03 mark. The Bulldogs quickly rebuilt a seven-point lead, but AU stayed within striking distance and closed the gap to just 34-31 at the half on a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer by senior Kevin Simpson.
With AU connecting on just one of its first nine shots in the first four minutes, the Bulldogs opened the second half with an 11-2 surge and built a double-digit, 45-33, advantage.
Wingate took advantage of its red-hot 58.3 percent shooting accuracy over the final 20 minutes and steadily built its largest lead of the night, at 78-54, with less than five minutes remaining.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Trojans posted a season-low 31.7 percent (19-of-60) field goal accuracy.
• Wingate won the rebounding battle, 50-34.
• AU, which leads the conference in free throw accuracy, connected on 16-of-26 (61.5%) from the line.
• Shawn Benard has pulled down at least five rebounds in each of the last five games, including nine in two of those contests.
• The last time AU claimed four straight overall victories was in the midst of the 2014-15 campaign, when the Black and Gold posted five consecutive victories from December into early January.
• The Trojans have swiped at least seven steals in f our straight games.
• Shawn Benard has handed out at least four assists in 11 consecutive games.
Anderson continues its season-high four-game South Atlantic Conference road swing by visiting Coker, Saturday afternoon. Tip-off versus the Cobras at the DeLoach Center in Hartsville, S.C., is slated for 4 p.m.